As usual all focus is on the champions league, and for justified reason. But the Europa League does contain some exciting teams that everyone should pay attention, if they aren’t already tired of football by Thursday
Let’s start with a team many might dismiss based on on the players they’ve sold. Lyon sold their main forward Lacazette, their young midfielder Corentin Tolisso and their more experienced midfielder Gonalons. All of these players were big for them, but their replacement were very good. They signed Bertrand Traore for less than £10m, Tete from Ajax for £3m, Mariano from Madrid for £10m, and Papa Cheikh Diop from Celta. Lyon replaced their big players very effectively. The players they sold were for huge fees. Lyon replaced them with good young players and earning a huge profit. Lyon haven’t got worse, i’d say they’ve stayed the same quality. Fekir has started brightly, Mariano is already showing his quality with four goals. This team is fast and exciting. Last season they showed that they can score plenty of goals, it’s just defensively where they struggle. The game against Ajax, where they were torn apart by the same winger they signed. If they can resolve these issues then they have a chance to reach the later stages of the competition.
Arsenal have one of the best squads easily in the competition. They have depth in most positions have real quality in Sanchez, Lacazette, Ozil and Kolasinac. They are easily one of the favourites in the competition. So what’s the issue? Well one main issue and that is the manager. I’m not going to sit here and go on like Arsenal fan TV or Ian Wright. It’s nothing personal at all. He’s tactically inept and is very stubborn. He refuses to change his formation and prepares adequately for specific games. But he has went to 3 at the back with a squad not containing great centre backs. Although I respect his decision to finally change his formation after years of 4-3-2-1, he needs to learn when to use 4 at the back and 3 at the back. For example against Doncaster, the gunners played 3 at the back against a league 1 side. It just goes to show how stubborn Wenger is. They didn’t need to play so defensively against a team that is far behind their level. If Wenger can motivate those players to win a European trophy, then the final is a possibility for them.
Hoffenheim finished fourth last season and were very unlucky not to qualify for the champions league, after being knocked out by a very dangerous Liverpool side. Even though they did lose Rudy and Sule, they did bring in Nordfeit from West Ham, Serge Gnabry on loan from Bayern Munich. They did also keep hold of their great front two Kramaric and Wagner, while also keeping hold of their brilliant midfielder Demibray. Their young manager Julien Nagelsmann has really turned that club from relegation battlers to top four battlers. He has them organised and deadly in the final four. Demibray is by far their best player and if he performs, then they can beat anyone in this competition.
Probably the instant favourites of the competition based on transfers, Milan are under a resurgence right now and progressing in Europe. Milan made some brilliant signings, including Andre Silva, Leonardo Bonucci, Frank Kessie, Andrea Conti, Ricardo Rodriguez and many others. Not only have they signed some of the best young players in Europe, they’ve also signed some veterans in the game in Bonucci and Biglia, players who know the league. Besides the beatdown they faced from Lazio, they have been very good and if Napoli weren’t as amazing as they are, they would be flying. Milan have a huge squad and will be able to get the best out of their players. They just need ensure this team is ready to play together by the knock out stages.